BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Bridgeport resident Dayleen Lee works four, 12-hour shifts at a Shelton business each week, but paying her home heating bills is still a struggle.
This season, she’s turning to the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program for help.
“I work 48 hours a week and I still have trouble,” she said. “To have this program, it means a lot.”
On Monday, U.S. Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., met with Lee, other clients, staffers and Mayor Joseph P. Ganim at Action for Bridgeport Community Development Inc., which administers LIHEAP locally. He heard personal stories from residents of how the federal program helps. His visit came in the wake of a report that revealed more than 313,000 Connecticut households can’t afford their energy bills.
“Applications are higher this year than last year,” he said. “Year after year it seems there are more people are coming in.”
Murphy said he fought to avoid cuts to the program this season, but no new funds were added. The recent federal budget includes $3.3 billion for LIHEAP.
The senator said many in the state would be shocked by the number of people who live with little or no heat in their homes, and he said the numbers are growing in the suburbs, where unemployment means more and more people are struggling.
Staffers told of one man they served who is over 100 years old and didn’t have heat for years before he applied for LIHEAP. Others spoke of children in their Head Start program who have told them how cold it is at home.
“This isn’t hyperbole,” Murphy said. “A lot of people in the state have no idea people have gone three or four years without heat. No idea.”
Carmen Ramos, director of the energy assistance program at ABCD, said she’s seen a 5 percent increase in the caseload this winter. Her team has sent reminders to anyone who has applied in the last three years to make sure all those who are eligible apply.
“The need is out there,” she said.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.